UIC studies COVID-19 experimental therapy Trump touted as a cure

A team of University of Illinois Chicago researchers plan to study an experimental biological therapy to see if it can help prevent COVID-19 infections.

The study aims to test at least 25 people, comparing those who receive four shots of treatment with those who get a solution with no medicine. The therapy uses a combination of lab-engineered antibodies, which are immune system proteins that fight viruses and infections.

Different from a vaccine, UIC scientists want to see if the therapy, developed by biotech company Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, can stop the spread of the virus in the body even if individuals are exposed to others who are infected.

“This is so contagious that we want to have as many levels of protection as we can,” the study’s lead investigator Dr. Jesica Herrick said in an interview. “Even if I got the vaccine, if I was exposed to someone with the virus, I’d want to take this.”

The Regeneron therapy gained much national attention after President Donald Trump declared it a “cure” for the virus. He received it as one of several treatments at Walter Reed National Medical Center in early October after testing positive for COVID-19.

The therapy isn’t available to the public because it’s still being tested in humans before it can be approved by the government. While it’s considered a potentially promising medicine, Trump’s cure claim has been roundly dismissed by health experts, including Regeneron’s own chief executive. It’s being studied in thousands of people at sites across the country and internationally.

UIC researchers are looking for study participants who do not have symptoms of the virus but have been in close contact with someone who did test positive for COVID-19, such as people who live in the same households. Herrick said the study participants need to receive the treatment within days of their close contacts testing positive.

Researchers will monitor the participants for eight months.

To learn more about the study and to enroll, call (312) 355-0656 or email christe5@uic.edu.

UIC is also conducting human studies to determine the safety and effectiveness of two experimental vaccines for the coronavirus.

Brett Chase’s reporting on the environment and public health is made possible by a grant from The Chicago Community Trust.